Clay Cooper, a U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, was having lunch with his buddies outside of his aircraft while on a mission on a November day in 1967.
He tore off the lid of a cardboard C-ration box and while eating lunch, penned a short note to his wife on the cardboard lid.
Cooper intended to mail the short note to Donna, who was living in Los Angeles at the time, but misplaced it.
“It must have blown out of the helicopter,” Cooper said. “I looked for it and couldn’t find it. I just thought it was gone.”
Cooper never found the cardboard note, but an anonymous GI did and dropped it in the mail. The cardboard note was postmarked Nov. 9, 1967.
The note found its way to Los Angeles and to Donna, who read it and packed it away with the numerous other cards and letters that she had received from Clay.
“I put it in with the rest of the letters and forgot about it,” Donna said. “Clay never knew that I got it.”
Fast forward 50 years. The Coopers, who now live in rural Leavenworth County, were going through the letters stored in boxes in the attic when they came across the 50-year-old cardboard note.
“Clay said to me, ‘Where did you get that?’” Donna said.
Clay Cooper said he never found out who mailed the note 50 years ago.
“GI’s are special,” he said. “Somebody found it and mailed it.”
Clay Cooper served two tours in Vietnam as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot. He retired as a major in 1983 after 20 years of service.
Clay and Donna Cooper have been married for 57 years.
“Donna sustained me during my time (in Vietnam),” Clay Cooper said. “She sustained me with all of the moral support and frequent letters.”
Frequent letters, including one that he did not know had been delivered until 50 years later.